Wednesday, March 31, 2010


David Bowie sang a song I liked a long time ago. He shouted at the top of his lungs, “We can be heroes!”

We can be heroes?

Webster says a hero is a person that shows great courage. Webster also says that courage is having the mental or moral strength to keep forging ahead through danger, fear or difficulty. So, I realize that, according to these definitions, I am surrounded by heroes. You may be one of them.

My dad is one of them. Yes. He’s my hero. But it goes beyond that. He’s just heroic. Moral strength is his forte. When he was young, the younger kids in his family were starting to go hungry. They were poor farmers living in the south. The depression was hitting them hard. He quit school to go to work so they could buy a milk cow. His own father asked him to do this.

His 19 year old daughter died in the late sixties. He survived and moved forward with a kind heart. My parents lost their child, and that often spells divorce for married couples, but neither of them walked away.

Dad was injured at work and was told at one point he’d probably never walk again. After umpteen surgeries and trips to hospitals in other states, he walked in the front door of our house with bizarre electrodes sticking out of his body. One time I had to turn it down because he had accidentally turned the thing too high and was practically frying his spine on the inside of his body. Standing on the tips of his toes, he yelled to me, “Turn it down! Turn it down!” I did and he laughed. He’s in his eighties now, he has to use a cane sometimes, but he’s still walking, which isn’t always easy because Dad now has what’s called “Lewy Body Disorder.” You get two major problems for the price of one. A combination of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease. But he hasn’t complained about it. He takes his meds and does the best he can.

Growing up with comic books, it was always clear to me that a hero was a person who had some special ability. A hero was strong when others were weak. A hero saved people. But life is not a comic book. And I am amazed by the resiliency and perseverance in people like my dad. Some have made it through childhood horrors that are almost unspeakable. Some have made it through condemnation and abuse of all kinds. Some are moving forward through disease and heartache that they did not earn for themselves. Some have endured tremendous loss and pain and neglect, but they take another step, and another, and the sun rises again. They open the door and head into the world to see what the day has.

People like this have shown me that we really can be heroes.

If I could, I’d make an awesome, flowing, super-hero cape for each and every one of them. I’d write them a theme song. But I guess they’ll just have to make do with my admiration.

Peace to you.

© LW Publishing 2010

Monday, March 29, 2010

Playing With Words

I love playing with words, with language, and for some reason I find it to be very funny. Usually more funny than the people around me do. I’m sure this post will be another example of that. But there is an irony to how words are so important and yet aren’t. Maybe it’s because I’ve spent so much time studying words and language, I don’t really know, but this stuff even gets into my dreams sometimes.

One night I dreamt I was in ancient Rome. I was standing on some huge portico with miles of giant steps leading up to it, just finding myself there for some unknown reason, hearing people talking all around me. In my dream I was looking for someone or something, I don’t really know what. Then I saw, a short distance away, wearing a toga and everything, my friend Justin Quick. And Quick is a good name for him. He’s quick to care. Quick to help. Quick to show kindness. He’s great. But I have no idea why he was in my dream. So I called out to him and, no kidding, without a single thought, my dream self shouted out, “Justinian Quickenus! Justinian Quickenus!” He turned to me and started walking towards me and that’s when I woke up. Laughing. I literally made myself laugh in my sleep with my insane dream.

I told Justin about this dream. I think it just confirmed my weirdness. What can one think about such dreams?

But it doesn’t stop with the dreams. I have a phrase I use for my daughters. They are “Beauteous Maximus.” Sometimes they are “Smucha Muchas” or “Shweety Hearts.” Our house is “The Humble Abode.” I do things that aren’t very “pastorly,” and the lifestyle my wife and I live with three kids and too much going on is “coitus interruptus.”

Go ahead. Laugh at me if you want. I can take it.

But seriously. Don’t you find words to be funny? And some words are just weird. The word “the” for instance. The? Who came up with that? Why is a knife called a nyf? Back in the day it was a knyf, but we didn’t like the k in there, so we just dumped it. And I’m sure someone knows why, but if we knew it wouldn’t be as funny.

Or how about how doctors put the suffix -itis on things to make you feel like they’ve really told you something? Laryngitis, Appendicitis, Sinusitis, etc. etc. The suffix -itis simply means “irritating” or “irritated.” Isn’t that helpful? How about “Eyebrowitis” or “Mykiditis?”

This is all just the tip of the iceberg. No wonder communication is so hard. I just thank God for words like love and forgiveness. Without them this world would be all nonsense.

Peace to you.

© LW Publishing 2010

Saturday, March 27, 2010

I Could Run Like The Wind

I recently watched the movie, Forest Gump, and I had forgotten just how good this film is. Not only is it beautiful from a visual standpoint, it is profound in so many ways. I could do a blog just on this movie, but I won’t.

It’s amazing how skillfully this movie explores the distinctions between intelligence and wisdom and asks questions about predestination and free will. But I think the basic movement of the film comes from this idea: Forest may not be the most intelligent person, but he is an exceedingly wise person, at least most of the time. When he isn’t wise it’s because he’s too much like a child. It might be better to say that he’s a very wise child.

I was watching the part where Jenny comes home the first time, then sneaks away in the morning, leaving Forest without any explanation. There is an extended group of shots where the soundtrack goes dead silent. Forest is shown sitting in different parts of the house, trying to make sense of what she’s done, but it’s something he can’t make sense of. All he knows is that he’s hurting. Truly, he has been used in a painful way. Finally, the camera shows Forest sitting on his porch, thinking. Then the music begins to swell as Forest says something like, “All of a sudden, for no particular reason, I felt like running.”

And for the next umpteen minutes of the movie we get shots of Forest running across the country and back again, and I remember not really getting this part of the movie when it first came out. It seemed out of place. Even the humor in this section is much broader than the rest of the film. But if you think back to the beginning of the movie where some local punks throw rocks at Forest it makes sense. He’s hit with these rocks and Jenny yells at him, “Run, Forest, run!” So he does. He runs so hard that his braces fall off his legs and he gets away from the boys. He runs from them all through his childhood until it lands him a football scholarship. Later, Jenny tells him that when he gets to Vietnam he needs to run if people try to hurt him.

Jenny teaches him to get away from pain by running.

The reason he runs so long and hard after Jenny abandons him is that the pain of his life has finally caught up to him. The pain of his childhood. The pain of his war wounds and the death of his friend Bubba. The pain of mistreatment. The pain of his mother’s death. And finally, Jenny has given him the greatest pain of his life by using him and abandoning him without an explanation.

All of this pain, festering under the surface, pushes Forest to run for over three years, even though he doesn’t totally understand why he’s doing it. His pain is a silent motivator and running is the only thing he knows to do. But, finally, he says, “Momma always said you got to put the past behind you before you can move on. I think that’s what my running was all about.” So he stops running. He says, “I’m pretty tired. I think I’ll go home now.”

All that running would wear anybody out, don’t you think?

Peace to you.

© LW Publishing 2010

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


There is this story, this thing that happened, and it’s just about the only story my dad liked to tell about me as the years went by. Because of that, I’m going to tell it here. His face would light up when he was telling it. The light was the humorous leftovers of embarrassment. Something he could laugh about NOW that wasn’t so funny when it happened.

It was simple really. And somehow indicative of my life as a whole.

My family and I were at a restaurant. Unusually, it was a sit down joint. Big Boy? I dunno. I think we were on vacation. I was maybe 4? We ate. We had a nice time. Dad paid the bill and waited at the door for us to catch up. When we did catch up, as we were walking out the door, I showed my dad my amazing luck.

Me: Hey dad, look, I’m rich.
Dad: What?
Me: I’m rich.

I had a handful of money.

Dad: Where did you get all that money?
Me: Off the tables. People left it there. I’m rich!

I had cleared probably 5 or 6 tables on my way to the door. I was amazed at how all of those dumb people had forgotten to take their money when they left the restaurant. Somehow no one noticed me doing this. Which happened to me a lot.

Mom: Oh my goodness! (For her this was like swearing.)
Dad: That’s not for you!!!

Dad grabbed the money out of my clutching hands and put it on a table near the door. He furtively ran back out of the restaurant in embarrassment. My siblings looked at me with concern, thinking I would go to jail for what I’d done. But the police had bigger fish to fry. So, in lieu of incarceration, mom and dad just explained to me what a “tip” was. And ... my dad loved this story. It always made him laugh. Like clockwork.

I was robbed.

Peace to you.

© LW Publishing 2010

Monday, March 22, 2010

Like A Child

I did a translation of Psalm 116 from the Hebrew. Even though it’s basically the same, it came out a little different than some of the published translations. See what you think...

Psalm 116:1-8

I love Yahweh because he heard my cry for pity
I will call to him all my days because he listened to me
The suffering of death overwhelmed me
The power of the grave found me
So I found hard times and sorrow
Then I called on the name of the Lord
“Oh Lord, rescue me.”
The Lord is merciful and good
Yes, our God shows mercy
The Lord protects those with a childlike heart
I was humiliated and he delivered me
Be still again, my soul
The Lord does you good

I especially love that line, “The Lord protects those with a childlike heart.” The Hebrew word there is a little hard to be clear on. It can mean a child. It can mean a simple minded person. But it’s not meant to be negative at all or just about a child. It’s talking about a heart that trusts in God like a child trusts someone to take care of them. Jesus uses this same imagery in the New Testament of the Bible and it gives us so much to think about.

Does your heart look like this:

Or this:

So why is that? What are you letting in? What are you not letting out?

Peace to you.

© LW Publishing 2010

Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Great American Novel

I have too many books. Literally. I have no place to put them. The shelves are full. They overflow with stories, stacked in every direction, crammed into every corner. I’ve given away lots of books, but not enough, so I tell myself to give away some more. But I’m kind of attached to them. It’s hard to let them go.

I have this very simple journal I’ve used since I was young. I use it to keep track of what I’ve read, I list out the book and author, then I rate the book on a scale of 1 to 6. Why 1 to 6? I don’t remember, but I can’t change it now. I’ve been doing this practically forever. I don’t even know exactly when I started it. I don’t want to mess with the system.

When I go into the journal to add a book, I see some of the old books I’ve read. I look at the ratings, and there are times when I’m tempted to change a rating. What seemed like a great book 20 years ago does not always seem so great today. I feel foolish for having thought so highly of this one or that one and I’m tempted to correct my foolishness. But I don’t. I let it stand.

And, besides, I’m impressed with the fact that someone – anyone – could finish a book in the first place. I admire the effort. I have tried and it’s not easy. At least not for me. Even a bad novel is a powerful act of discipline and will. And while good writing is a big mountain to climb, great writing is like getting to the moon and back. Still, it can be done.

In university we talked a lot about the “Great American Novel.” Has it been written yet? Was there one novel by an American that stood out as the definitive work from a writer in the U.S. of A.? No one could say for sure. I’d probably vote for Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, but what do I know?

Perhaps you are meant to write that Great American Novel? Why not? Why not try? I’ll find a way to make room on my shelves. I might even beat you to it. At least we can die trying.

Toni Morrison, author of the amazing novel called “Beloved” said, “If there's a book you really want to read but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it.”


Peace to you.

© LW Publishing 2010

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Hangin' With The Pros

Last night (3.17.2010) my buddy Tom and I went to a seminar to see a guy named Jack Joseph Puig. I’ll let you guess how to pronounce his last name. We couldn’t figure it out till we got there. Even then, the staff at the reception didn’t know, but they had to introduce him and that’s when the secret was revealed. This was at the Sweetwater studios in Indiana. It was a long drive but a good time because Tom is great company.

Jack Joseph Puig is a top notch, high falutin’ record producer/mixer who has produced and/or mixed all kinds of artists, including the Black Crowes, Lady Gaga, the Rolling Stones, Lifehouse, Amy Grant, Weezer, Goo Goo Dolls, Sheryl Crow, Green Day, U2, John Mayer, Switchfoot, the Counting Crows, etc. etc. The list goes on and on. This guy really knows his stuff. He has paid the price to learn his craft.

So, JJP starts off the seminar with a rough vocal track by Mick Jagger of the Stones. It was recorded as a demo by Jagger in Jagger’s kitchen (which, I’m guessing, is nothing like my kitchen) and it had no fixes or effects on it at all. Plain tracking of vocal. And we watched as JJP mixed it through some digital processors and all that. He also had untreated vocal tracks for Keith Urban, Lady Gaga, Bono and others. It was really interesting stuff.

Time came at the end for questions and answers and some bone head started trying to argue with JJP about the details of one of the stories he told. It was pointless and embarrassing for us all. But then some industry guys, sound mixers and studio producers started asking some really insightful questions about the gear and the process of recording and such. It was great to be in the middle of all that.

I was encouraged in a way because I seem to get the sonic side of things. From what I am learning as I go, I seem to have a pretty good ear for how things should sound and blend on a recording. When JJP played things and asked if we could hear the nuances, I really could hear exactly what he was talking about, and that felt pretty good. But at the same time, I always walk away from these things kind of confused and feeling dumb because I just don’t get all the technical stuff very well. Levels and parameters and inputs and outputs. AAAAARGH. It’s really not my forte.

But I love every minute of it.

Oh. I almost forgot. It’s Poo eeg.

Jack Joseph Puig: Mixing Tips - Instinct vs. Intellect

More Videos & Games at Stress Management Tutorials

Peace to you.

© LW Publishing 2010

Monday, March 15, 2010


There are times in life when we are all challenged to take the next step and move forward toward maturity, adulthood and enlightenment. For instance: learning to cuss.

I did not hear a lot of cussing in my house growing up. It was frowned on and I’m thankful for that. But it was a constant friend in the neighborhood. Some of the kids were masterful with it. The cussing flowed like chocolate syrup on the vanilla ice cream of life. And so it was that I tried to use this particular art in one of my endless attempts to fit in. And the plan was simple. I thought I’d learn the cussing thing. It seemed easy to figure out and it was an easy way to prove my manhood to the other kids in the neighborhood.

So I started in one day. I cussed and I cussed. I didn’t think for a second about the meaning of the words. It didn’t matter. Each word was simply a key for getting in the door of acceptance. And the kids in the neighborhood helped me! They told me which words were most appropriate in whichever situations. They high fived me when I got it right. It was very affirming. All day long, cuss cuss cuss, every other word. Icouldabeenagangsta.

When I went home in the evening, after being unaccounted for all day, I started to get nervous that I would accidentally cuss in front of my parents. I wasn’t sure, but I thought there was a good chance my mom would immediately kill me if she heard me cuss. Probably with a sawed off shot gun or a dull knife. And she’d do it in front of my brothers and sisters to make a good example of me, my blood spraying across their tender, horrified faces. But I somehow managed to control myself.

Over the next few days I couldn’t wait to get out there and practice my art. Cuss cuss cuss. Hey man, how’s it cussing goin’? Cussing great! Well I’m cussing glad to hear it. We should get our cussing bikes and cussing go to the cussing creek and try to find some cussing turtles or snakes. Cuss yeah, man! I bet there’s cussing all kinds of cussing turtles out there. Cuss.

Being me, I think I was enjoying the creativity of it. It took careful effort to fit all of those expletives in at just the right spot, to get the nuances correct. It was like a new toy. I loved it. But a few days later, the guys took me aside and sat me down on the porch to explain something to me. They told me I was taking things too far. Cussing was great, but I was overdoing it. I was cussing so much it was annoying them. Too cool to be cool. So they asked me to tone it down a bit. And I did. Failing once again to get it right with the indiscernible madness of human interaction.


When I was at university, an English professor said that cussing had no true meaning and was really a form of violence. He said that anyone can cuss, but not anyone can express their true heart. And I found that very challenging. I don’t know if he was completely right, but I think he was on to something. I learned how to cuss and I have since learned to put it behind me. Mostly. I have to confess that even now, decades later, the urge is still there sometimes. When you least expect it, it can rise, easy to the tongue. But I think the prof was right. I think it’s a good thing to want what you say to matter and have meaning. That simple desire could shape our connections to others into something more beautiful and true.

Matthew 12:36-37
Peace to you.

© LW Publishing 2010

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Sin Has Something To Say

Let’s just say I can’t see the obvious. I face my detachments and foreign appendages, but they don’t matter to me. I don’t know why. I will carry the coffin with my many hands, stare at you with my many eyes and cry victory, sniff my noses at how stupid you are and scratch the floor with my many feet, but I won’t notice your song.

Sing all you want and I will laugh at you when I get in the other room.

I do not look into the sky and ponder eternity or the end of things. I have all the time in the world. I will turn keys without a second thought and shine what festers and scream like a monkey at your appeals, turn you away like a beggar at my door after inviting you in. I don’t want to be with you, I want you with me.

I can say this is true
I can know the big idea.
I can help you die and pay taxes.
I have many faces.

Tin pans tell me empty histories, and pure, white and heated coffee makers give no perspective. Microwave ovens give cancer, but within allowable limits set by the government. Dictionaries are full of words that don’t matter to me.

I am ignorant in many ways.
I am cold and heartless.
I am cruel and unusual.
I am in need.


Until my many fingers feel the soft skin of your throats, until then I will be strong and persevere. I will fly, I will soar, on the fluent cruelties of indifference. I have nothing else to live for. There is no reason, no rhyme.

I don’t care.

© LW Publishing 2010

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Batman

In life, sometimes, there are moments of purity and clarity. Moments when you do the right thing and you know you’re doing the right thing and nothing else matters.

When I was very young, probably around 4 years old, I had gotten a used Batman costume from a yard sale. This wasn’t a plastic thing, it was the real deal, made out of cloth, with a dark blue cowl and a cape, with a grey suit to go with it. It looked just like the costume Batman wore on TV. It was wonderful to behold. I put it on and looked at myself in the mirror, amazed how I could become the Batman.

Then one summer day the opportunity arose to utilize my newfound glory. There was a little girl living across the street from us. She was a bit younger than me and she was beautiful. But she had a villainous older brother who picked on her, and I noticed him across the street performing one of his many acts of villainy, making the little girl cry.

And I knew just what to do.

I ran into my house and quickly changed from the mild mannered me into the fearless Batman. I quickly checked myself in the mirror to be sure my Batmaness was complete. It was. And I was fearless. I remember it clearly. With that cowl and cape I had nothing to be afraid of. The world would stop on my command.

I charged out of the house. I ran across my yard and across the street. I ran to the rescue. I started yelling at the girl’s older brother for his dastardly deeds and told him he better leave her alone. He seemed very old to me at the time. Maybe he was 9? 10? Almost an adult to a 4 year old. But I berated him in front of his friends. I told him to leave her alone. I put up my dukes and was ready to let him have it and he was stunned for a moment into a speechless stare.

I imagine it was just before he came to his senses and beat me to a pulp that their mom came outside to see what all the fuss was about. I told her he was a cad. Well. In so many words. I did tell her that he was making his sister cry and his mom did the right thing. She made him leave his sister alone and go sit on the back porch until he could learn to act right.

I was rewarded for my bravado with some cookies and milk, which I shared with the damsel who was now distress free. It tasted very, very, very good.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Peace to you.

© LW Publishing 2010

Monday, March 8, 2010


One time in High School I was sitting in a practice room that was along the wall of the band room. There was a piano in there that I loved to mess with. I tapped on the keys, finding things, discovering. I was very relaxed and happy with the world. And a little tired.

I started to yawn and it was a good one. A big, long, restful yawn. It felt so goo...

I woke up on the floor. I had literally yawned myself into unconsciousness and fell off the bench. I had no idea you could do that to yourself. Whoduthunk? I laughed nervously and got up, trying to collect my dignity. I think my girlfriend at the time was in the room with me. It’s hard to remember. Realize, I was in the middle of recklessly depriving my brain of oxygen.

To this day, I still love a good yawn, but I’m a bit apprehensive. Too much of a good thing and all. I guess I have a bit of a yawn phobia. What if I put myself out for good? What if I kill off those few remaining brain cells I rely on to think about types of cheeses? What if I lose my ability to do music? What if I suddenly understand what’s happening on Lost? Crazy stuff might happen, you never know.

I’m just saying: You sleepy people. Be careful out there.

Peace to you.

© LW Publishing 2010

Chased a running man, but he is finished running because he is exhausted and he’s run as far as he’s going to, and yet the thing that is chasing him has not been lost or fooled into missing him, it still comes after him, merciless, and the moment comes where it is closing in, he can feel it and his senses are all telling him that he needs to get out of there, but he can’t because he has no energy left for flight and he’s backed into a corner with no way out as the thing closes in on him, but he looks around him for an out anyway, there must be an out, it has to be there but it’s not, and without the hope of escape he does the only thing that comes to mind, he screams and screams and screams, tearing his throat, as if trying to get something ugly out of himself, as tears pour down his face and the muscles of his arms and legs contract, pulling in toward the core of his body, to be smaller and safe, and his mind wonders what is happening to him, what is happening because he cannot see anything chasing him.

And now he is numb.

© LW Publishing 2010

Saturday, March 6, 2010

The Boy & The Bus

The boy got off the bus. His year in kindergarten was almost over. He could smell the birth of summer in the spring air. He was half a block away from his house, partway up a cross street. Kids went their way. Needing to cross the street, he stood on the curb, waiting for the bus to pass. That whole section of street was curved. But the bus went straight.

The huge, black wheels reached up onto the curb and grabbed his left foot, rolling over it and pulling it out into the street, under the bus. His right leg twisted up under him as he was pulled to the ground. His body was pushed tightly against the curb. The wheels on the back of the bus drove carelessly across his left leg, across the calf, the knee, the thigh, while the boy watched in an oddly detached but focused manner. There was no frame of reference for processing what he was seeing. There was a tremendous pressure that suddenly snapped into nothing. No feeling at all. The wheels of the bus hardly noticed him as they came off his leg, leaving him behind.

The bus didn’t stop.

Another boy looked back and saw the boy on the ground. He was looking at me. He paused, trying to find words. He said, “Did you get run over by the bus?” He laughed. It had to be a joke, right? I said, “Well, what do you think?” The laughing boy stopped laughing. A look of terror came onto his face. He ran screaming down the street to my house, “Dave’s been run over by the bus! Dave’s been run over by the bus!”

I tried to move my legs but I couldn’t. I reached out and touched my left leg. It was almost like it belonged to someone else. There were small rips spread over the fabric of my pants leg. I could see the tread marks of the tires, dusty imprints, on the dark material. Oddly enough, my right leg, twisted up under me, hurt more than my left.

A guy who had just gotten home from Vietnam heard the screaming and saw my mom running down the street. He said, “What’s going on?” Mom shouted, “David’s been hit by the bus.” My sister had died just a few months before. This was another nightmare. It was happening again. Mom thought I was dead. They ran to see me. When my mom saw I was alive she started weeping. The vet, his name was Blake, he picked me up and carried me to my house. No doctors were there to say, “Don’t move him!” He didn’t know any better. It was a kindness.

When I finally saw a doctor, he was stunned to find that my leg was not broken. It was “impossible” but true anyway. Still, I had no feeling in that leg. He said the reason I wasn’t feeling anything was because the nerves were all damaged, crushed. And it should have been permanent. But it wasn’t. All the feeling came back into my leg within a few days. They could not explain it.

My mom tells me my kindergarten self said something I don’t remember. I’m sure I said it though. She’s good about remembering these things.

Me: Mom, you know why I didn’t get killed by the bus?
Mom: Why’s that?
Me: The angels picked up the bus and kept it from being too heavy.
Mom: Oh yeah? And how do you know that?
Me: I saw them.

Psalm 111:2-4
Peace to you.

© LW Publishing 2010

Thursday, March 4, 2010


Years ago I went to see Chick Corea’s Band. Chick on keys, John Patitucci on Bass and Dave Weckyl on drums. In case you don’t know, these are musician’s musicians, at the absolute top of their craft, playing fusion and traditional jazz. These are awe inspiring, gifted players. But, for the most part, I was there to see Dave Weckyl. I grew up playing drums. I was never great at it, but I like to play. So I saw Weckyl play, and my emotional response was that I should never touch a drum again. It was like Salieri seeing Mozart’s sheet music in that Amadeus movie. He was stunned and destroyed because he knew that, no matter what, he would never be that good. That great. It was not going to happen. And it made him bitter to the point that he wanted to kill Mozart.

I wasn’t bitter, so Dave Weckyl is safe. But some part of me, probably the American part, felt like, “Why bother! What could I say with the drums that this guy hasn’t already said a million times better.” It was childish thinking. I mean, what if only the “best” basketball player in the school was allowed on the court? No game. What if only the “best” musician was allowed to play? No band. What if only the “best” teacher was allowed to teach? No education. Think about it. It’s stupid.

If you can be original, that’s great. If you’re the best at something, hey, that’s great too. I’m not trying to take away from that. I could watch Michael Jordan jump-shot replays all day long, and I don’t even like sports. Dave Weckyl, Michael Jordan, Mozart, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Tiger Woods: that kind of talent can be taken as evidence of divine creation (I said talent, not morality). I think that if people can relate to and enjoy what you say or do, that’s great. It adds to your sense of community. The more the merrier. It might even make you some money, especially if you express yourself through plumbing. And who says you have to be original? Who says you have to be the best or sell a million whatevers? Where do these rules come from?

Be all you can be. Go for it. Just do it. Don’t quit. Never give up, never surrender. Boldly go where no one has gone before. Please do. But at some point you’ve still got to think about why you do what you do. People may not want to pay you for the thing you love to do, and maybe they shouldn’t. If that’s the case, then you won’t be putting food on the table with that particular thing. And so what? That doesn’t mean you have to live like a sponge, absorbing forever and a day. Perhaps it’s time you allowed some of your heart and mind to move off into the world around you. Produce something. Maybe it will just echo back for your own pleasure. Maybe others will hear and want to hear more. Maybe they’ll throw you a tip. Who knows.

Did you know that Vincent van Gogh only sold one painting in his lifetime? Why do you think he kept painting? Was he just crazy? Maybe he was.

If only we could all be so crazy.

From what I’ve read, it was apparently van Gogh, the man who sold one painting, who originally said, “Winning isn’t’s the only thing.” This is why he’s remembered as a painter and not a philosopher. No wonder he chopped his own ear off.

Please believe me, and I’ll try to believe myself. You don’t have to be the “best” at something to express yourself. You don’t have to be “market worthy.” You don’t have to be the winner of some opinion poll or have the biggest house, car, following, church, sales record, whatever. Simply treat your expression, your art, your talent, your thing you do because you are you – whatever it is – treat it as the sacred act that it is. Enjoy it. Develop it. If it’s what you do for income, then do it the best you can. If it’s not, then do it the best you can. Imagine that whatever you do – no matter how well you do it at the moment – imagine that you’re doing it, not for Donald Trump, not to impress people, but for God.

Are you alive? Signify.

Colossians 3:23-24
Peace to you.

© LW Publishing 2010

Tuesday, March 2, 2010


I write songs. Pretty much always have. Hundreds of 'em. It's what I do. And I was really young when I started. Somewhere around the 4th or 5th grade. I’d come up with ideas and I kept a notebook full of lyrics that I was working on. I would take two cassette recorders and record tracks by dubbing back and forth. I’d sing a melody line into one recorder, then play it back and record it on the second recorder while adding a harmony. Then I’d play that back and record again adding another harmony. Ad infinitum.

High tech. That’s how we rolled.

When asked why I write songs, I find it hard to explain. I’m tempted to say, “Why do you vomit?” It’s not very elegant, but it does make some sense. When you’re sick and your body wants to get it out, it gets it out. Just try and stop it. Well. That’s sort of what it’s like. Ideas and sounds start buzzing around the grey matter. They start to take over, falling like puzzle pieces into place. It’s like sporadic OCD. I can’t concentrate on other things while it’s in there, taking up space. I feel like, if I don’t get it out, my head might explode.

You could call this the George Romero philosophy of creativity.

Sometimes I think it’s a way of avoiding madness. Life crams so much into us all the time, if we don’t pour something back out, I think it can be crippling. In order to relieve the pressure we have to purge. For some people, tears are enough. Or laughter. For me it’s mostly songs and stories and good conversations about what makes for great coffee. For you it might be something else. At least I hope you have some form of expression. Working on cars. Painting. Needlepoint. Singing in the car while driving to work. Whatever. Everyone is different. Trust me, finding a way to express yourself in healthy ways is a lot better than exploding with anger or being addicted to drugs. Some forms of expression can kill you. Like Freddie Mercury said, given certain circumstances, even “too much love will kill you in the end.”

There's a man in the Bible who was hit with practically every bad thing that could happen to a person. His children died in a storm when the house they were in collapsed. He lost most of his possessions. His wife had given up on him. And so we get page after page of Job, expressing himself. He says, "So I won’t keep silent. I’ll speak out in the anguish of my soul. I’ll complain in the bitterness of my soul.”

He had to say something. I think he was just trying to stay alive.

Peace to you.

© LW Publishing 2010

Monday, March 1, 2010

American VI

Just listened through the posthumous release of Johnny Cash, American VI. I wasn’t expecting this one. It was a surprise to see it. I thought they’d just keep releasing over-priced box sets of out takes and who knows what for the next 300 years. All of which I would have happily laid down the legal tender. Word is that there are a lot of unreleased recordings.

But this recording is a very special thing. It’s like finding a letter written to you by a friend after they’ve died -- a letter that says everything is going to be okay. It really seems to capture the heart of Johnny Cash. I especially like “Ain’t No Grave,” which a guy named Russ Taff did a killer blues/rock version of years ago. I am also partial to “Satisfied Mind” and the Marty Robbins cover, “Cool Water.” These songs are right up there with “Delia’s Gone,” “Hurt,” “The Man Comes Around,” God’s Gonna Cut You Down,” “Drive On,” “The Mercy Seat,” “The Beast In Me,” “I See A Darkness,” etc. etc. etc. There are so many great, great songs from the American sessions.

This is a phenomenal recording. Pure American. With shades of darkness but hopeful at the same time, just like Johnny Cash. Like a candle in the dark that is VERY aware of the darkness because it has so fully been touched by that darkness. I don’t know if I like this recording more than American I and IV, both of which I consider masterworks, but this is great stuff.

Johnny Cash’s music isn’t for everyone, but nothing is for everyone. What’s great is how his words just drip with honesty and Rick Rubin has surrounded that honesty with simple, straight forward music. You might not agree with what he’s saying, but you know he believes it. It’s not a front. All of the American recordings have this feeling of simplicity and honesty, and it’s an admirable thing. There’s something powerful about listening to a broken man singing his broken but heartfelt songs, with the hope of hearing perfection some day.

American VI ends with Aloha Oe, which makes perfect sense. The last words on the recording being “until we meet again.” And that’s what Johnny Cash would want. He’d want you to know his Savior so he could meet you when your time on earth is finished.

By the way, if you like the American Recordings, there is a much lesser known set of recordings released by the Cash Family soon after Johnny’s passing called “Personal File.” This is a long two disc set of recordings that were found in a box in the studio that had been done as acoustic demos years ago. Genuine “lost” recordings that have a very “American” sensibility to them. It’s well worth getting.

Good listening and...

Peace to you.

© LW Publishing 2010